FISCHER-DIESKAU'S FIRST (AND ACCORDING TO MANY, BEST) RECORDING AS CHRIST, IN ST MATTHEW PASSION
Critic Teri Noel Towe places this Fritz Lehmann account "among the greatest performances on disc," and further describes the reading as "squarely in the classic, Mendelssohnian tradition-straightforward and relatively brisk overall, with long legato phrases and rhythmic robustness." Despite the relatively large orchestra, there's a leanness and clarity to the sonority and tempo that marks a decisive break with many of the more famous recordings from about this time and earlier. This is a monumental but bracing performance that successfully navigates the straits between ponderousness and flippancy. Though all the soloists are distinguished artists of their day, the set is particularly noteworthy for Fischer-Dieskau's Jesus, recorded when he was a mere stripling of 24.
As David Breckbill writes in his notes, "I have rarely encountered a setting in which a voice is more forcibly suggestive, through its very timbre, of 'divinity' in relation to the voices that surround it."
CD-1091(3) J.S. BACH: ST. MATTHEW PASSION – THE FIRST COMPLETE RECORDING, FEATURING DIETRICH FISCHER-DIESKAU AS CHRIST (1949). J.S. Bach, Matthaeus-Passion (St. Matthew Passion) with Elfriede Trötschel, Soprano, Diana Eustrati, Alto, Helmut Krebs, Tenor – Evangelist, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Baritone – Jesus, Friedrich Härtel, Bass. With the Runfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, the Großer Chor des Berliner Rundfunks, the Children's Choir of St. Hedwig's Cathedral. Conducted by Fritz Lehmann. Recorded from live performances given 9/10 April 1949 in the Haus des Rundfunks by Radio DDR. A co-production with the Deutches Rundfunkarchiv (DRA). CD#1 68:43; CD#2 64:37; CD#3 66:01. UPC# 0-17685-10912-6. AAD. Available more than 50 years ago in a Discophiles Francais set and on Vox vinyl Lp's, this performance is NOW RE-ISSUED FROM THE ORIGINAL MASTER TAPES of the central German Radio Sound Archive.